Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Voice Of China 中国好声音

To my Surprise (actually I shouldn't be that surprised) China has produced 'The: Voice". Another singing/ talent contest show franchise that has clearly taken over the world.

This is really a great study tool. Really. I'm serious!

Its pretty much why I love the Chinese re-make of an American film What Women Want, called '我知女人心'Knowing the basic story and premise, it means you don't get as lost in the story, leaving you to concentrate on your listening skills. Especially since the story of many Rom-Coms can be a little confusing.

PPLive iPhone app
It's simple really, even if you aren't a fan of the show in English you at least know the format. The series consists of three phases: a blind audition, a battle phase, and live performance shows. Team of singers are mentored and developed by their respective coaches, until they are knocked off and eventually compete against each other in live broadcasts.

The first few episodes are pretty easy, it's a bit of banter, introductions, and back stories. 

I think the best way to watch The Voice: China is probably to use PPLive. It's a great way to stream Chinese TV and there is a pretty good app available that will let you download the episodes to your device.

What you can expect is some simple language,very little music jargon, and lots of cross-chatter. It's easy enough to follow with some fun banter, and you can generally guess what they are talking about for the most part- since it's all about music, and image/ style. However the narration is a bit much for me, but you're not missing out on much without it. There's no real story arch which means if you don't understand what's happening in one conversation or segment you can easily start again in the next segment, as the subject matter is rather unrelated.
I don't imagine it would be worth watching it through to the end, but maybe that's just a personal preference since I much prefer the audition segment. As some of the contestants are knocked off they may try to develop stories but it shouldn't make it harder to understand. Really, I don't imagine that it gets any more complicated as time roles on if you did watch the whole thing, I'm just not that invested in the result - English or Chinese it's still a 'talent' show.

IN SUM, really, it's just an easy to zone-in and zone-out casual engagement with the Chinese language. Fun and low stress, you can test your level, gain a little confidence when you discover what you can actually understand, and maybe even pick up a new word or two! 

Meet The Judges

Yang Kun (杨坤)

Mando-pop singer and songwriter Yang Kun is famous for his melancholy ballads and his signature husky voice. His debut, 'Whatever', was a smash in 2002 with sales of 400,000 copies.

Natasha Na Ying (那英)

A Chinese vocalist. She is considered as one of the best present-day female singers in Mainland China, having sold more than 10 million albums. She is also noted for her buoyant and forthright personality.

Liu Huan (刘欢)

A Chinese Mando-pop singer and songwriter, is also a professor at the University of International Business and Economics, teaching the history of Western music .

Harlem Yu Chengqing (庾澄庆)

A Taiwanese Golden Melody Award-winning singer-songwriter. He was the first artist to experiment with the style of RnB and rap in Chinese music. He has released 14 studio albums.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Story of a Lifetime

Rory's Story Cubes

I've been pretty excited to write this post for a while now. You see, I've been working in an Education company for about a year and a half hoping to pick up a few tricks to better help my fellow Sinofiles on our never ending quest for language purity. Trying to combine it with an element of fun or frivolity would have been even more exciting; this learning tool  not only combines the two but pretty much takes to another level.

So when you see Rory's Story Cubes don't write them off immediately. Just wait 'till you see them in action. When I debuted these at a recent Chinese Corner meeting it, caused a real stir!


Fun, easy, and simple.
The idea is simple: no words! Just 9 die, and 6 faces each with a different picture on them. The simplest way to play them is to roll one at a time, using the picture with each roll to develop a scenario into a ridiculous story. Using the pictures as prompts, you are encouraged to break out of you comfort zone, straying away from the tradition and using imaginative ways to work around words you don't know. 


Imagine you are in China, and find yourself in a situation where you have no idea to express yourself: the Doctors, an electronics store, or lost in a park. These games help you practice the tools you'll need to 'beat around the bush' as it were to really express yourself. Don't be limited by literal interpretations of the pictures either, with a bit of liberal thinking and with a touch of the absurd you'll be surprised what you will learn!

Rolling the dice on the iPhone app
Although it does help with creative thinking, and encourage an expanding of new vocab, you can still use it to help with targeted learning. I remember I used to make up absurd responses in class, tired of always answering with facts of my life: where I grew up, my interests etc. I wasn't learning anything new! If I ever met anyone who wasn't exactly like me I wouldn't know what they were talking about because there weren't using words I learnt. Here you can stumble across new words and scenarios.

Lastly, ever been stumped to write out example sentences? Thinking of a scenario to fit a given word or phrase can be hard on-the-spot. Choose a list of new words or sentence structures, and using just 2 or 3 die, you can make your sentences a little more varied, and guide future learning avenues- especially if it's self guided study outside of class structures.


Rearrange or move the dice
Basically you could fall over and still learn something from these things. It makes for a more interesting study session and is a great way to bring together study mates or new friends. The website offers a variety of game rules, but by simply using alternate number for die, or buying the expansion packs (Actions, and Voyages) you can keep it fresh for a long time.
Unsurprisingly there is also an iPhone app (screen shots pictured) that really takes the tool to a new level of versatility. At a cost of around $15-20 for the real thing, $1.99 for an app is very attractive. It mimics the functionality of the dice, and allow you to move and arrange them after a roll, take neat screen shots using the app, or 'lock' die in place after a roll.

Hints and Help

For those of you who are interested I have made a PDF template of flash cards you can make of the different pictures and some suggested English and Chinese words to lead your story. Use these for the first few times, or when in a group with people of different language levels. Have fun and enjoy learning!

Simple Tips:
Read the games rules suggested on the website;
Try to be creative in interpreting the meaning of a picture;
Start you story with a scenario (a day at uni);
OR an open sentence like 'While reading in the library...'
Try to have a Who/ What/ When/ Where/ Why list, and try to tick a few off

I'll finish with a great example, using the picture featured in this article, read, enjoy, be inspired:


(Maybe the logic doesn't make sense, but hey! This is about making learning fun!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Misanthropic Adventures in Culinary Disaster

Misanthropic Adventures in Culinary Disaster

Okay so it's been many months and I think its safe to say my feelings have sufficiently subsided that I can let reason and logic guide me as I now sit down to write this. I feel like this is something that should be written.
The Sydney Night Noodle Markets are crap.

Maybe I missed the multi-cultural food bandwagon, or maybe I'm a food conservative, but you just can serve up bain-marie (hot box) food, charge $20 a bowl and expect me to be glad about it. Damn. Glad I got that out of my system! So, not a total failure of a night out but in terms of food I have to say I'd rather the fluorescent tranquillity of the Dixon Food Court over the fusion food hell I had to live through.

The night started out well enough. We had hear all about the Noodle Markets and although expectations weren't high the promise of a legal founding to drink in a public park and eat noodles was too good an opportunity to pass! After all they only came once a year, and this year was 'the year'. My mind raced with possibilities; what would I do faced with a whole park of food vendors and only enough stomach for one meal choice. I am after all prone to intense order envy on a good day, let alone at a time like this. So we get there, and it's mad. I mead crazy awesome mad! The park is full, the atmosphere is great and people everywhere. I see mini picnics, people with mountains of food and more importantly legally acquired bottle of wine. BOTTLES!

However you look a little closer you can see the crowd is a little strange. You can see a few youth, hipsters, vagabonds. This I'm used to. However the sight of suits and the inner-city-young-professional made me nervous. They're the kind of people who are ready to be spoon fed a good time because their lives are so bland and busy they'll take anything that will give them a kick. Noodle market fail.
I think the failure of Sydney's attempt at a run like this is that it's not enough to just lay it out, you really must have the goods to back it up. It's a shame to see a comfortable, exciting atmosphere like that wasted with bad fusion cuisine. Although this, in the defence of the vendors, may be due to what I imagine are the high costs of running a stall at an open air event with the council. I'm sure only a handful of vendor could actually meet the cost, and of that short list most are this strange style of cuisine which would chuck a sprig of coriander on a dish and call it 'Chinese Style'.

Now, I'm a seasoned twenty-something; I've done my time in restaurants all over. So I would hate to be the kind of idiot to say that only a Turkish man could run an 'authentic' Turkish restaurant, or walk into Vietnamese restaurants and bluntly ask the waiter if they're really Vietnamese because it confuses me that someone with an Australian accent can make 'authentic' food. So I don't want to give you the impression this was somehow deficient due to some half-baked concept if 'authenticity'.

However when I go to a noodle market I kind of imagine that they would sell noodles. You know, soggy floury goodness tossed with veggies and meat served in a paper bowl. This however is the point of the article where I back peddle to talk about the nights redeeming qualities. In all honesty though, I think perhaps the real purpose of the event was rather successful. Getting a whole bunch of strangers to gather based on a common love like food, and taking advantage of the public space that is provide in our great city is divine.
Would I go again? Well I think what I've learned by now is that I have difficulty dealing with a reality that so vastly differs from my expectations (which I usual design with great number of specific detail). I kind of have issues. Now we both know what to expect and I think maybe next time, I'll eat first. Then I won't have to stress so much about getting the right dish.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Men trouble...

This is my favourite Mag:
A good mix of fashion/ art/ design
Well I don’t know about you guys but I have been trying madly to think of ways to keep myself interested in Chinese study while I am outside of China. Because I have a habit of over-committing myself to hobby clubs and my interests in Chinese I barley have any spare time to think of. As a way to combine my need for downtime and my desire to study I thought why not COMBINE these into one activity.
So I got a Chinese men’s magazine, there's  an impressive range of Mens (and Womens) magazines at Kinokuniya, in the Sydney CBD. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a very rough few weeks!

Open To Page One

I was having such a hard time, I was struggling through every article and it would take me 40min to work though a single paragraph! I thought to myself “this is a fashion magazine! I usually find fashion magazines bland and simple- surely things can’t be that different in Chinese”. The worse I got the less confident I became in myself.

Now this is probably a lesion for all of you out there; As it turns out such Fashion magazines are not exactly made ‘for the masses’ (大众化) as they are in Western cultures. Chinese magazines seem to be a self indulgent exercise in the literary finesse of the Chinese language to add an extra layer of decadence to the fact anyone buying the article has any leisure time to speak of to engage in the act of reading a magazine… let alone the education to understand the language that is used.
That said, these magazines are widely distributed and surely, only a certain demographic would be interested, but anyone could pick one up and make sense of it. What is at play here is the shift in Chinese Middle class, mixed the esteem and pride they have in their own language in it's written form.

The Moral Of The Story

Or branch out with
one don't know
Pick one you might
read in English
This is not to be particularly hard to the Chinese people. China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, the divide between rich and poor in China is becoming sharper. Fashion magazines are just a sign of that. For all you language learners out there however, please, DO get a magazine. They are a tonne of fun and it is great to peruse them and see what I am able to understand if you were to select material for serious study… leave this to a little after you are past the upper intermediate level!
My tutor recommended a novel. Unlike a magazine or newspaper that use specific language- or perhaps simply use language differently- certain novels are designed to flow well and have a simplicity in language they is less about culturally laden expressions, or 成语 style phrases, they can often express a real way that language is used in everyday China.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Things as they are right now

Today was definitely a big day. I started this at the suggestion of a friend when I was talking about all my recent aims in life. There sure is a lot going on... Having moved to Sydney I have gone though a huge learning curve as I discovered what I can really expect out of life. And what it takes to get what you want out of life.

I pretty much moved here after a failed attempt at getting work in China, I guess I thought things would come rather easily but now I can say I was happy I was wrong. It helps to know what I am capable of and I really pushed my limits. It will be interesting to see how much further I can go.

So what happened today? I went to a press conference for a Chinese singing contest. Much like American Idol but based out of Hunan. This year there is a strong emphasis on encouraging non just ex-patriots living overseas, but encouraging Chinese speaking foreigners. I had originally intended to go there and do some networking, but as soon as I got there it was a daunting as the first day I arrived in Sydney. I was faced with my own limitations and the scary gap between where I am and where I want to be in life. I not only had limited Chinese, but a limited understanding of what was going on in general, and a crippling shyness that I could not shake.

Luckily I went out to coffee with my friend who invited me and she share some inspirations insights. Although this an awkward stage in my life, try to follow my personally belief that ‘growing up is giving up’, I have to think of things like ‘how to I package myself?’. But it’s true. I have something to offer a prospective employer. I have something that I want to offer the world, and I can do that through my work.

At the moment I’m going to concentrate on Chinese Corner, and Toastmaters, see what confidence I can build while I continue to get everything settled. I do not want to get comfortable with my café work. I want to keep going forward in a way that that reflects my desires and ethics.

Hopefully I can keep true to that, and this blog will be an interesting way to keep track of that.